This small book running into 142 pages is based on the premise that “Everything that happens to me happens so that I can be benefited to the maximum amount possible.”
I kept on reminding myself the aforesaid lines all the time while I was reading the book. I had picked the book in a hope to divulge into the Zen philosophy. Zen and the Art of Happiness has a Zen in its name and has sprinkled quotes by Buddha and Tao here and there. But it not a book on Zen philosophy. It is a typical American self-help book. Yes, the same kind of stuff which assures to make you smart in 7 days and increase your memory in 30 days. It quotes Vivekananda more than once. Vivekananda’s contribution is towards Vedanta philosophy. Though Zen too has its roots in India, there is a stark difference between Zen and Vedanta. The book also quotes a Tamil poem.
So the book tells again that you are what you think. The philosophy that all that happens is for the best, may be new to the Western people, but we Easterners have been hearing it since our childhood. It also tells that everything comes at the appointed time. Again, this is an integral part of our mental makeup. Even our Bollywood movies have dialogues to that effect. Any Tom, Dick and Harry will mouth dialougues like, “Jo hota hai ache ke liye hota hai” and “Waqt se pehle aur kismet se jyada na kisiko mila hai na milega.”
Still the book has some silver linings. It tells today’s materialistic youth that happiness cannot be linked to possessions. Yes, our youngsters may not appreciate this pearl of wisdom when it comes from our own grandparents. But when an American author who has written a dozen books on Chinese philosophy and personal growth says so, it has every likelihood of being taken seriously.
Like any other self-help book, this book too speaks about forgiveness, positive thinking and using the tool of imagination. Like any junk book on spirituality it speaks about choosing your response, stress reduction, change management, forgiveness and of course living in the moment.
Once you accept that the book doesn’t offer anything about Zen, you will definitely appreciate the author for his writing style. He writes in a simple manner and quotes everyday situations which are easy to relate. Having overcome the disappointment of not getting to read much about Zen, once you start reading it, you will not keep it down until you have finished reading it. The book is a good primer for our adolescents to equip them to venture out in the real world. Lines like “The Universe always strikes at your weakest point, because that’s what most needs strengthening,” “The angry man will defeat himself in battle as well as in life” and “Happiness is being happy with what you have,” definitely have the potential of bringing out a change of heart, even if it is only for a few minutes.